From the Hood to Hollywood
If there is one thing Al-Saadiq Banks wants you to know it’s that he didn’t start writing books for the money. He didn’t even set out to be an author. “I didn’t start writing with the intentions of being an author or to sell books.” Al-Saadiq says. “I started writing basically to challenge myself and prove that I could write a book if I chose to.” And now 600,000 books in print later, it’s a give-in he’s accomplished that goal. But penning gritty, urban street tales was an afterthought to Al-Saadiq, who as a young man was deep inside the drug game that he now brings vividly to life in his books.
”I spent a lot of years on those streets,” Al-Saadiq says. Like a lot of young men growing up in the inner-city he thought the only way to pursue the American Dream was by selling drugs. In Newark, New Jersey aka Brick City that was the routine career choice for young, black males. Many whom end up dead or in the penitentiary.
Born in the seventies, Al-Saadiq’s parents split up when he was five, leaving his mother to raise him singlehandedly. Academically, the future novelist excelled, but he found he wanted more. At a young age he was introduced to boxing and that became his first passion.
”I come from a broken home, where I was raised by my mother,” Al-Saadiq says. “But she instilled in me the importance of morals and the importance of education. I grew up in the boxing gyms, so I’ve always been a fighter from damn near birth.” But as important as boxing and education were to Al-Saadiq, the streets were an irresistible temptation, always getting in the way of his legitimate pursuits.
“I enrolled in the golden gloves tournament and was shot a few months before and had to stop my training.” Al-Saadiq says. “The next year, 1994, it was a repeat, I got shot again keeping me from the tournament. In 1996, I was stabbed one month before the tournament. In 1998, I finally made it to the tournament and blew through the competition, becoming the New Jersey golden gloves champion.”
His dream of boxing was sidetracked as he pursued a life of crime, but Al-Saadiq knew the consequences of his choices. “I understood all that came with the game. There were a few things that I could’ve done in the real world, but that fast money had me chasing with tunnel vision.” Al-Saadiq says.
Al-Saadiq went from a good school kid to a mini-monster overnight. People forced his hand because they knew him as a school kid and refused to respect him as a street dude. ”I knew the odds were against me so I over did every situation, creating spectacles for people to see to understand and accept that I was willing to go all the way.” He says. But the birth of his daughter gave him a different perspective.
“The birth of my daughter presented something that I never saw or felt and that’s fear. I feared not being alive or free to raise her and that was my turning point right there. I gave it all up.” He says and he turned to writing books. With his brother, Al-Saadiq formed True 2 Life Books and put out his first book Block Party in 2002. “I have dropped about one a year ever since.” He says and his stories have found quite an audience, becoming very popular in prison and best sellers in the urban fiction genre.
“You can tell Al-Saadiq knows what he’s talking about,” a prisoner in the feds we’ll call Tank says. Tank has been in for almost two decades on a crack conspiracy charge and has been down with street lit since the jump. “I read the Teri Woods, the Vickie Stringers, the Nikki Turners and Al-Saadiq is the best, hands down. Can’t nobody mess with him on the street tip.” Just like in gangsta rap and hip-hop, authenticity in street lit is something you can’t fake.
“Al-Saadiq is true to life in all aspects,” Kisha Green, the owner of Diva Books Inc. says. “His writing is original, outside the box and that makes his tales timeless.” With success, major publishers have come calling, but Al-Saadiq intends to stay independent.
“We formed True 2 Life Publications because in no way could we see ourselves signing with any other publishing house. Independence is the key for us!” Al-Saadiq says. To date, he has written and published nine novels, but he has more planned.
“The next level for True 2 Life is animation and motion comics as well as filmmaking. A Block Party movie and Strapped series are coming soon.” Al-Saadiq says. Therein lies the secret to his success, always striving and never settling, another project to bring to completion. And Al-Saadiq won’t be happy until he is in Hollywood, a long way from the streets of Newark, New Jersey. But well within his reach.
Make sure you check his links out-